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News & Comments - Kent Independent Education Advice

News and Comments

The latest news posted by Peter J Read; just click on a news item below to read it in full. Feel free to subscribe to the news via the email link to the right or the RSS Feed at the bottom of the page. Please note that the over 1500 regular subscribers who receive each news item directly are not included in the number of readers recorded below the item, who have gone beyond the headlines to look at the full article.  If you have a view on any item posted, please leave a comment.

Some more specific items appear in Peter's Blog, so its also worth checking there.  

Please feel free to suggest items of news, or areas where comment is needed to: peter@kentadvice.co.uk.

 
News items below appear below as and when I have time in a very busy life.

Update 9th April: I have included a section on Government advice for the appointment of new headteachers, below. 

This article considers the appointment of a new Headteacher for Fairview Community Primary School, a process that is lasting for just three and a half weeks, from posting the advertisement to concluding the interviews at a school whose status in September is unknown. The only way this is not madness is if Medway Council and the Governing Body already know who they are going to appoint. Why would anyone else apply?

In my previous article about Fairview a month ago, I reported on a letter from the Board, dated 24th February, that ‘Governors will now carry out a ‘period of reflection in which they will take this opportunity to respond to the most frequently raised themes highlighted, including Academic Standards, transparency and the question of why The Westbrook Trust with more regular communication’. 

This regular communication amounts to a brief letter from the Chairman of Governors, dated the last day of term, informing parents that a permanent headteacher is to be appointed, without mentioning any of these promised themes. The job advertisement fails to mention the rather important point that the school is planning to academise with the Westbrook Trust and so the successful candidate could be removed if their face doesn’t fit. This is either gross incompetence or alternatively, with interviews set for just three days after the closing date for applications, the whole thing is a disgraceful fix! This article finishes with four important questions to which parents need to know the answers. 

The pattern of grammar school allocations reveals chickens coming home to roost – but never mind the children. I have regularly written since last June about the unfairness of the Kent selection procedure that would be created by the coronavirus effects on schools unless changes were made, and so it has proved. My previous article on the Kent Test demonstrated a built-in bias towards children in West Kent and girls as a result, with further discrimination against children attracting Pupil Premium, suggesting that children from ‘ordinary families’ would also suffer.

Now, every West and North West Kent grammar is full, and all but one are oversubscribed with first choices, even though between them they have added on an extra  184 Year Seven places from last year. At the other end of the scale, there are 257 empty spaces in 13 East and Mid Kent schools, up from 123 in six schools in 2020.

The starkest example of the shift is at Maidstone Grammar which turned away 60 grammar qualified first choices last year, but has 14 vacancies for 2021 admission. At the far end of the county, Sir Roger Manwood’s which had 34 first choices rejected in 2020, now has 20 vacancies.

For children attracting pupil premium, 10% of the girls were found selective by the 2020 Kent selection procedure, and 7% of the boys, in total 8.2%, a fall of 17% from the 2019 figure.

There is an increase of 51 children from outside Kent to 466 in total, were offered places in Kent grammar schools, the main rises being at Gravesend, Maidstone, Maidstone Girls, Mayfield and Tunbridge Wells Boys, partly compensated by a sharp fall at Weald. 

I look below at the outcomes by area in more detail, including levels of oversubscription and vacancies. You will find full details of the Kent test process for 2021 entry here

Thursday, 18 March 2021 20:28

Halling Primary Crisis: Latest Developments

Update on even fresher and major developments below, most recently today, 2nd April: Job Description for EYFS Lead Teacher (they keep coming!)

A comment on my previous article about Halling Primary begins: 

Watching even more children leaving school today crying because even more staff are leaving (that the school haven’t told the parents about!) is genuinely heartbreaking.

 Meanwhile, the Chair of Trustees considers that ‘The atmosphere within the school is now one of great enthusiasm and determination'. A front-page article in the Medway Messenger on Thursday has stoked the fires featuring the same Chair claiming ‘staff not up to the challenge’. The Trust has called a meeting of Halling parents for next week, although this is primarily to introduce the new staff - should be interesting. At the meeting, the Trust will also discuss the adversarial and threatening Social Media Policy.

Ex-members of staff have now lodged formal complaints about the shocking public attack on them, which appears to be an attempt to cover up the resignation of over three-quarters of the teaching staff mid-year. Those departing next month include the highly respected Deputy Headteacher and Head of Early Years, both leaving 'for personal reasons' with no job to go to at present, together with support staff. Several of the Teaching Assistants have chosen to leave in the next few days before the end of term. 

All this is far away from the school’s highly publicised values of

Compassion • Integrity • Thankfulness • Respect • Resilience

Saturday, 13 March 2021 04:58

Academies and Free School News: Part Two

This article follows on from my previous Academy and Free School News February 2021 Part One, and looks at other developments of new Academies and Trusts, together with various items of Academy news. As well as those mentioned in my previous article, Leigh Academy Rainham is opening in September, other new schools on stream including: Alkerden All Through School, Ebbsfleet, planned for 2023; Barton Manor School, Canterbury, opening in September 2022: Chilmington Green Secondary, Ashford, planned for 2022 but delayed; Maritime Academy, Strood, opening in 2022; Park Cresent Academy, Margate, planned for 2023; new Special School on Sheppey planned for 2022.

LAR Projection

The Potential in Everyone Academy Trust and The Village Academy comprising ten schools between them are merging, although a bid by Brockhill Park Performing Arts College & The Abbey School (Faversham), to merge was turned down.

Other items looked at are about Infant and Junior School Trusts, the Brooke Learning Trust, The Kent Catholic Schools Partnership, Fairview Community Primary School and Halling Primary School.

With too much news arriving and too little time, I have decided to publish this item now before items become out of date, with a third instalment to come. 

Update 22 March: 

Kent Secondary School Allocations
for September 2021
  PAN Offers
1st
Choices
LAA
Ebbsfleet 150 132 58 47
Hayesbrook 151 148 51 51
High Weald 151 73 56 5

PAN= Published Admission Number; LAA= Local Authority Allocation

 Plans have been announced for Leigh Academies Trust to merge with (take over) the struggling Brook Learning Trust. I have regularly looked at the failures of the three Brook schools for too many years: Ebbsfleet Academy; Hayesbrook Academy in Tonbridge; and High Weald Academy in Cranbrook. Although I have doubts about such large Trusts, the children attending these schools and those who will follow them would surely have a much better future under Leigh Academies Trust. 

I look in some detail below at the many challenges facing Leigh if they follow this takeover through, but this is a very thorough and professional organisation and its leaders will surely have carried out due diligence and know the size of the task before going ahead. 

 

Leigh Academy Trust (2)

Assuming this takeover goes through, the Leigh Academy Trust will be running 15 secondary schools (with the opening of the new Leigh Academy Rainham in September), 15 primary schools and two Special Schools. These are mainly in Dartford, Maidstone, Medway and the Weald of Kent around Hub schools, regularly being allocated new Free Schools as they have come on stream, and other existing schools through Conversion or Sponsorship, as set out in the table below. 

This article is triggered by the Medway Council Press Release on secondary school Allocations, which as usual contains an absolute minimum of information.  In summary: Of the 3,431 Medway children offered places, more than 96 per cent have been awarded a place at one of their preferred secondary schools. 4,459 secondary school applications were processed, including 1,028 children from outside Medway.

The major change in admission patterns this year is also referred to in the Press Release. This is the opening of the new eight form entry Leigh Academy Rainham for September, offering 240 places from 514 applicants, and well above its Planned Admission Number of 180, which will have a major impact on other schools situated in the eastern part of Medway, and explored below.  

The other piece of information I have obtained recently is the performance of Pupil Premium children in the Medway Test, below, showing a fall of over a quarter in the number passing, which will follow through into grammar school allocations. You will find the parallel article about Kent secondary allocations here

Saturday, 06 March 2021 19:07

Back to School

May I send my very best wishes to everyone involved with next week’s national return to school, which will start on Monday for some children, but is staggered through the week for others.

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The last 12 months have been some of the toughest I can remember as a teacher. At Rochester Independent College we have now twice seamlessly moved to our ‘RIC Without Walls’ provision, by which students have been able to enjoy their full timetable, taught face-to-face by our specialist teachers online. All of our students have adapted extremely well to this new way of working and are continuing to demonstrate their dedication, curiosity and love of learning. Our teachers have also developed a number of new skills and trialled new digital programmes in order to make their lessons as engaging and inspiring as possible, which has been great to see.